Monday, October 26, 2009

Valley of Fire

We've had visitors here for the last few days and on Saturday, a perfect day for being outside in the desert sun without roasting (as are most October days), our guests decided they wanted to see some Vegas glories of the natural versus man-made variety. Not being either shoppers or out-of-towners who are obliged to clog up the Strip on weekends in order to see it at all, we were delighted (and a bit relieved) by this choice. Our definition of hospitality includes letting guests decide on plans, then chauffeuring them, keeping them company, and otherwise doing what we can to make sure they have a wonderful time. This policy occasionally leads us down dubious paths activity-wise, but not this time.

Valley of Fire, Nevada's oldest state park, is within an hour of Las Vegas. Its name comes from its eye-popping red sandstone formations. These
fantastical shapes and sinuous layers were created 150 million years ago by enormous shifting sand dunes, then sculpted by both the uplifting and faulting of the entire region (which occurred in pulses from about 80 million years ago until about 35 million years ago) and by erosion, geology's most dogged player. The park also features layers of limestone, shale and other gorgeous and geologically fascinating rocks, chipmunks as bold as game-show hosts, lizards, jackrabbits, coyote, birds, and the usual array of desert plants.

It's amazing how distinct and colorful these plants now appear to us. When we first moved here, our eyes accustomed to the splashy colors of Midwestern foliage, all the desert flora looked similarly scrubby and more or less beige. Familiarity has transformed subtle beauty into vivid beauty, as splashy in its own way as the rich rainbow of humid climate colors or the gaudiness of the Strip. Here as elsewhere, I guess, perspective is everything.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday Night Outrage

Most on-air football commentary is bubble-headed. Lowering the volume so you don't really have to listen to it usually suffices; in extreme cases, there's always the mute button.

The Sunday night announcing team (formerly the Monday night team, but times change) was about as good as it gets. This isn't saying much. In fact, it isn't saying anything other than that the commentary did not customarily have to be reduced to gentle white noise or muted altogether. Al Michaels, while utterly dorky, knows the game pretty well and has some ability to watch the proceedings as opposed to blathering inarticulately about unrelated matters (a distressing habit shared by too many of his colleagues). John Madden was enthusiastic and, if occasionally incoherent, also incredibly knowledgeable and never mean-spirited. Cris Collinsworth, who has taken Madden's place, has been bland so far, but he may settle in and be as good as he was in his previous broadcasting gig.

Tonight, however, both Al and Cris achieved new lows. In a blast of vulgarity, Cris crowed, carefully enunciating each word, "The Pittsburgh Steelers are kicking their stinkin' butts!" Nice. Really elegant commentary.

Worse - far worse, if you ask me - was Al's casual, gratuitous and highly offensive sexism. As he went into raptures like a teenager with a crush over Mike Tomlin (the Steelers' coach, for you readers who aren't football fanatics), Al gushed that the day before the opener against Tennessee, Tomlin had spent four hours attending his kids' teacher conferences. "Of course," Al enthused, "it's easy to tell the wife to go do that. But [Tomlin] was there."

My husband and I turned to each other, aghast. "Tell the wife to go do that??" The wife?? Leaving aside the dismissive nomenclature, let's count the offensive implications of Al's statement: (1)
wives are subordinates who exist to be ordered about; (2) attending school conferences is women's work; (3) fathers who choose to attend their own children's conferences are doing something exceptional, noteworthy; (4) there's no way Mrs. Tomlin might have a career that would preclude her being dispatched to handle this child-related matter; and (5) it's perfectly OK to express sexist sentiments such as these to the Sunday night football audience because, of course, we're all guys and all guys are sexist pigs, right?

I think Al owes the actual Sunday night football audience an apology. I think NBC does, too. This kind of throwaway sexism is outrageous. Its time has long been past. Even dorky football guys in their 60s should know it no longer flies, whatever their personal opinions may be. It's indisputably harmful - to the women, the men and the children it presumptively shackles in stupid, confining, restrictive, gender-limited boxes. For shame!